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Monday, April 10, 2006

Reader's Diary #71- Kate Braid and Sandy Shreve (editors): In Fine Form (up to Palindrome)

Since I last blogged about this book I've covered four more forms: Ghazals, Glosas, Haikus (and Other Japanese Forms), and Incantations. I think the best approach for me to take is commenting on each specifically.

Ghazals: Thus far, this has probably been my least favourite section of the book. It's not that the form itself is faulty, but I do think Braid and Shreve chose poor representations. While I've commented before about their choosing of poems which are rough estimations of their true form, this is the first time I've had a problem with it. In previous forms, the exceptions were just that and the editors went out of their way to justify their choice. In the ghazal section however, almost none of the poems follow the criteria specified by Braid and Shreve themselves to be traditional ghazals. Some people might question why this is even relevant as long as the poems are good (and many here are), and they might have a point if that was my sole reason of picking up the collection. However, I was also looking to learn something about particular forms and to do that, I'd like to see accurate examples (with fewer exceptions).

Glosas: This was another form I was completely unaware of. And while I'm usually partial to shorter poems, I enjoyed these. Based on the scant offerings of definitions on the web, I'll assume many others don't know what they are either, so allow me to try and paraphrase Braid's and Shreve's definition; It's a poem that begins with four lines (i.e., a qautrain) from another poet's work, followed by four ten-line stanzas, each ending with a line from the quatrain quoted at the beginning. Got it? Furthermore, lines 6, 9 and 10 of each stanza are end-rhymed. What I like about this form is the interpretation of another's work. In the examples offered here, the glosas are used to do one of three things 1. Use the original poem to help express the new poem 2. Use the new poem to help express the old poem or 3. Create a sort of hybrid whereby both the new poem and the original are somehow joined to be more than the sum of their parts. And lest it seem like I'm biased towards the latter of the three, I think either reason is fine. The section is rather skewed towards P. K. Page however (no wonder she wrote the preface). But P. K. Page did write an entire collection of glosas entitled Hologram and seems to be the reigning queen of Canadian glosas; of the seven glosas compiled in In Fine Form one is from P. K. Page herself and three more open with quatrains from Page. My favourite in this section is by David Reibetanz entitled "Norberto Hernandez - Photographed Falling September Eleventh".

Haikus (And Other Japanese Forms): Haikus and (since I've been introduced to the form) tankas are probably my favourite forms of poetry to write. But, like most amateur poets I guess, I didn't quite know all there was to know about either form and may have been doing them "wrong"- not that I care too much; if they're good poems- they're good poems, if they're not- they're not, it's irrelevant to me how true to the form they are. However, if I'm going to call them "haikus" I should probably know what liberties I've taken. For example, we don't need to use the 5-7-5 syllable count as we've all learned in school; in English we can apparently use less. Likewise I hadn't heard of having a pause in both rhythm and grammar to divide haikus into two parts. Finally, while I have heard of traditional haikus attempting to unify nature and man, I didn't know that this is typically done through concrete images rather than abstractions such as similes or metaphors.

This section also discusses haibuns, tankas, rengas and senryus. Perhaps the most interesting poem in this entire section is Michael Redhill's "Haiku Monument For Washington, D. C." which is as much a concrete poem (or "picture poem") as it is a haiku.

For those who may be interested here's a haiku of my own:

We walk in rubbers
in mud in Spring, hand in hand-
Mittens left inside.

Incantations: I haven't heard poetry recited live and I have to admit I have an unfair schema of what such an occasion would look like that I've been trying to shake. So, when I came across this section of poems that Braid and Shreve themselves admit sound better when spoken aloud, I was skeptical. But I love being proven wrong and I loved this section. bp Nichol's "Turnips Are" and Theresa Kishkan's "Spell For A Daughter" are stand-outs to me.

(On an interesting side note, while looking for links for this post, I discovered this book had already been blogged about, it's from Sina Queyras whose "Tonight The Sky Is My Begging Bowl" was included in this book under the ghazal section.)

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